There is a grave. It was dug last summer adjacent to the yard of Raipora Public school. Exuberant children run around aimlessly as the school has opened after winter break. However, during the lunch hours some boys sit around this grave. The boys are school friends of Adil Ramzan – who rests inside. Pulling out wild grass that shields the grave, they stare and pray. Silence invades this particular corner again. The boys along with Adil used to play cricket a few meters away. Not anymore. Confined to his grave these days, the silence during last summer was pervasive, when Palhalan – ‘Gaza of Kashmir’, saw 41-days of unrelenting curfew. The intermittent rains that embrace the spring, kiss the wild grass – Adil became the first victim of government forces’ action in the area. It seems the pitter patter of the rain is the only sound of protest now-a-days.
A MOTHER’S TALE:
A narrow muddy road from the school leads to Adil’s house. Syeda, his mother hasn’t walked the road that now leads to her son’s grave. To her the grave is ‘an epitome of an irreparable personal loss, state oppression and a tale of endless pain common to Kashmir’. “I used to visit the school and fulfill all the school formalities myself but since Adil left us, I can’t bear to walk those ways again,” she says.
Sitting on the porch of her one-storey house, Syeda has two photographs in her Pheran (a closed cloak Kashmiris wear) pocket carefully secured in a white envelope. She holds out a passport size photograph showing Adil, 12, wearing light pink shirt, school tie and a spotting neat haircut. “This was his new uniform. He had just worn it twice,” she points out as tears brim out of her eyes. She gazes at it for a while, then stores it back carefully and pulls out a dim photo showing her son in a shroud. His face visible and calm as dead.
She sobs and suddenly shifts her gaze toward the main gateway. “I keep waiting here for hours thinking he might just now enter the gate in his school uniform and cry out to me,” she says.
A GAME OF CRICKET– LIFE CUT SHORT:
The wait began on July 31, last year. Adil along with his friends had left to play a game of cricket, never to return again.
Mohhamad Ramzan, his father, recalls the day, now an inseparable part of his memory. “He had his lunch and went to play cricket with his friends,” he says.
The game was in full swing, when some boys from the neighbourhood brought the news of protests in nearby Pattan town. The boys stopped playing. “Some children from Palhalan went to see the pro-freedom processions, my son too went with his friends,” Ramzan recalls.
The procession reached near the police station where Adil along with the group of boy stood watching. Ramzan says, “Forces opened random fire upon protesters near the police station and Adil who was standing there received a bullet in the thigh.”
With blood oozing from his leg, ‘the forces didn’t allow anyone to lift him’. Later some ‘women mustered courage and took him to hospital’.
Adil’s ordeal didn’t end at the hospital. As the summer sun was merging with dark, Ramzan got a call informing him that his son was wounded in police firing. “I carried some money with me thinking that I may need to shift him to hospital in Srinagar,” says Ramzan. Hope and fear inseparable in Ramzans’ mind were congealed with helplessness as forces didn’t allow the family to go to the hospital.
Minutes later the hopes dashed. “My cellular phone rang again and the caller told me Adil was a martyr now. He was shot dead by the forces, in the hospital,” says Ramzan.
Movement was curtailed and the people who were in hospital too couldn’t bring Adil’s body home. “Around 8:45 pm, some young boys took risk and brought his body to our home, taking a way through fields,” says Ramzan.
After firing at protesters near the police station, the family alleges, forces had barged into hospital and roughed up doctors, paramedics, attendants and even patients.
He was ‘mercilessly shot at on his neck and back by the forces’.
In Syeda’s words, a trooper had urged his colleagues not to shoot Adil, but they wouldn’t listen saying that the small protesters will again turn to streets and pelt stones.
“The merciless army didn’t spare him even in the hospital. He was dragged down and shot. It is really unfortunate. He could have been alive,” she laments.
Ramzan points out at a place in the courtyard where the stretcher on which Adil was brought remained for over a month, ‘reinforcing their painful memories’.
After a deep pause, Ramzan sighs, “Imagine my helplessness. After lying on the road injured when my son was finally taken to a hospital, he wasn’t spared even there, and in all I couldn’t do anything to help him,” then he adds vehemently, “Azadi is a great blessing of Allah. My son’s life for the freedom struggle is not a loss. He will be rewarded in the hereafter.”
CONFLICT AND CHILDREN:
Living in a conflict zone affects and molds the brains of children. “He was too young to understand what was happening but he had on his lips what everyone around him chanted- We want freedom! Also he would often say that we are oppressed!” says Syeda.
Syeda says, “During month-long siege, forces had waged a war against people “Forces would storm the village go on a rampage. I couldn’t even dare to move to the next room to see if my children were safe.”
After Adil’s death, she says an Army officer, photographed her other son Umar. “The troopers threatened to plant explosives in my house and get my family arrested. I am so fearful that I don’t allow Umar to go for tuition classes, fearing that he wouldn’t return alive.”
Adil used to follow Syeda like her shadow. “I would tell him not to come after me and he would innocently say whom would I go after if not you mother,” she says.
“Now it feels as if I have lost a part of my body and I am paralyzed,” she sobs.
While Adil’s parents lament and recollect his living memories, his three siblings have stored his books, school bag, uniform and other belongings in a safe corner in the room that he shared with them.
Suraya, his sister brings her brother’s school notebook, now only a souvenir. “Explain Liberty, Justice and Sovereignty”- He had answered the question in neat legible handwriting on the notebook.
He was good student and wanted to become a scientist, says Suraya.
“One day I went to his school to tell his teachers that he didn’t study at home. I was taken aback when his teachers replied that he has a ‘computer’ brain and is the first one to stand up and answer a question in the class,” Syeda says.
Having lost one son, Syeda now fears for the future of the rest of her children. Her thoughts linger on whether they will be spared by the armed forces. And even if they survive, she doubts if they would be allowed to make any progress. Ramzan family lives in constant fear, pinning their hopes that the new summer does not unleash any fresh horrors for them.